Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Yocom Hospital and Chariton's first "Yocom Park"

This old photograph of Chariton's first "Yocom Park" turned up yesterday on the "You grew up in Chariton if your remember ...." Facebook page, courtesy of Nancy Baldridge Mortimore --- and I swiped it to use here.

I call it the "first" Yocom Park because the current Yocom Park is located a block east, named in honor of Dr. Albert L. Yocom Jr.

The park in this photograph actually wasn't a park at all, although it functioned as such, but rather the extensively landscaped and carefully tended grounds of Yocom Hospital, located from 1924 through the 1960s on a quarter block at the intersection of Braden Avenue and North 8th Street just east of the square and south of the Chariton Public Library and the Chariton Newspapers building.

Constitution Park now occupies the actual footprint of the hospital and a portion of its grounds. The rest is under the concrete of a city parking lot.

This photo was taken from one of the apartments on the second floor of the Chariton Newspapers building, so it makes sense that Nancy would have it. Her parents were John and Eleanor (Perry) Baldridge; John (1914-2000), the long-time publisher of The Chariton Herald-Patriot and Chariton Leader as well as head of corporations that owned the Albia and Bloomfield newspapers, too --- plus a couple out west.

And here's a postcard view of the old hospital, when it opened during 1924 as arguably the finest of Iowa's small-town hospitals. The building was designed by Chariton architect William L. Perkins and, as you can see, it hugged the sidewalk at the corner of Braden and North 8th with grounds to the west and south.

I suppose I could Photoshop in a sign that reads, "Frank D. Myers was born here," but then so could much of my generation of Lucas Countyans. There are hundreds and hundreds of Yocom Hospital babies out there.

The first Dr. Yocom, Albert L Yocom Sr., moved his practice from Newbern to Chariton during 1889. His son, Albert L. Jr., went into partnership in the family practice after completing his medical education, and it was he who built this hospital building in partnership with his wife, Jennie (Curtis) Yocom, who served as its administrator. Jennie Yocom's brother, Dr. Dean Curtis, joined the medical partnership after World War II.

The new hospital replaced a frame building that still stands, now an apartment building, west of the high school on Orchard Avenue.

The Yocoms were pioneers in radiation therapy and among the latest in medical equipment that the new hospital housed was the first deep therapy X -ray equipment west of the Mississippi River, according to the Lucas County Genealogical Society's 1978 county history.

I've been told that the grounds were so extensively developed for a couple of reasons. First, the Yocoms wanted a pretty and peaceful place for their patients, patient families and staff --- as well as the community --- to enjoy. And since it took an incredible amount of time to not only provide medical care but also operate the hospital, it made far more sense to have the family garden here rather than at home.

The Yocoms' grandson, Brandt, says the little cottage visible in the photo was built for use when needed by patient families. The grounds also were the site of occasional outdoor weddings. Visible in the background of the photo is the old St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, torn down during 1955.

The new publicly-owned Lucas County Memorial Hospital opened on Chariton's north side during 1961, but the Yocoms continued their practice here until death intervened. Both Jennie Yocom and her brother, Dean Curtis, died during 1967. Albert Yocom died a year later, during August of 1968.

Attempts were made to find a new use for the hospital building, and the school district's administrative offices were located here for a time. But eventually the old hospital was taken down and the current configuration of the quarter block --- parking plus Constitution Park on the hospital site --- developed.


Martin said...

any more pictures of St. Andrews

Frank D. Myers said...

Yes, there are quite a few --- but none from this angle. I'll round some of them up.

Kaye VanFleet said...

Many might remember the basement in the late '70's, was the home of Lucas Co. Head Start. The garden area was a favorite of the children in the HS program. The kitchen, used for many years by the hosptial also was used by the HS program to fix breakfast and lunches for the two daily classes. I was born at Yocum Hospital, my three older children attended Head Start there. The memories!

Angela Pollard said...

I, too, remember the basement kitchen because I attended Head Start there in 1971. I loved playing in the garden area. Both my mother and father were born there.